Tony Cingrani didn't think it was surreal being back in the Minors after living the big league lifestyle for two months.
The Reds' No. 3 prospect didn't care how many fans were in attendance or the size of the stadium he was pitching in. The only number he was concerned about was four, the number of walks he issued Thursday night.
Four is four too many.
Cingrani (2-0) allowed two hits while striking out five batters over five innings in the Triple-A Louisville Bats' 10-0 shutout of the Pawtucket Red Sox. While the results were solid, the process to get there wasn't to his liking.
"I threw a lot of balls. I wasn't overly bad, I just walked too many people," said Cingrani, who threw 59 of 97 pitches for strikes.. "I needed to be closer to the strike zone."
Cingrani faced the minimum through the first two innings, but then the Red Sox loaded the bases with a two-out walk and consecutive singles. However, MLB.com's No. 60 prospect induced an inning-ending ground ball of the bat of Justin Henry to escape unharmed.
"It's important to get out of the inning every time without giving up a run," said Cingrani, who also rolled a 6-4-3 double-play ball in the first and picked off Brock Holt when he tried to steal second base in the fifth.
Selected in the third round of the 2011 Draft, Cingrani knows he needs to do better if he wants to return to the Majors, his ultimate goal.
In his season debut at home to the Marlins on April 18, there were almost 15,000 fans in attendance. Five days later, more than 24,000 showed up for his start against the Cubs.
When the 23-year-old faced Washington in the nation's capital and Chicago at Wrigley, the paid crowd topped 36,000 each time. There were 33,000 more at his fifth start against the Brewers and 43,000 on the road against the Phillies in his final start before getting reassigned to the Minors.
The paid attendance Thursday evening against Pawtucket was 7,609.
In Cincinnati, Cingrani would be greeted by a locker room full of beat writers, voice recorders pushed up against his face, cameramen jockeying for the best angle to see him speak.
In a considerably smaller clubhouse at Louisville Slugger Field, Cingrani got dressed in peace and left the stadium without being disturbed by too many writers.
"It's all the same. I don't pay attention to the fan base," said Cingrani, who spent time speaking with Homer Bailey and Mike Leake while he was with the Reds about how they attack hitters and throw their pitches.
Cingrani was 2-0 with a 3.27 ERA in six big league starts with the Reds this year. He struck out 41 batters over 33 innings, his best outing coming in Washington when he fanned 11 Nationals over six two-hit frames.
The 6-foot-4 left-hander threw 100 pitches or more in half of his starts and only threw fewer than 97 pitches once.
"I didn't think I was staying up [in Cincinnati]," said Cingrani, who said the team asked him to work on his offspeed pitches and his consistency. "I went up there because Johnny [Cueto] got hurt."
"I did pretty well. I just need to locate my offspeed pitches ... and change speeds."
On Thursday, Louisville's Josh Fellhauser doubled twice and plated four runs while designated hitter Felix Perez was 3-for-5 with three RBIs.
Pawtucket's Terry Doyle (3-4) gave up eight runs on 11 hits and two walks over four innings in the loss.